Conservatorships and Guardianships

These terms are often used together.  Many people ask me what is the difference between the two.  Conservators are in charge of the money of someone; on the other hand, guardians are in charge of the person or body of someone.  Parents are the natural guardians of their minor children.  I also want pet owners to think of themselves as their pets’ guardians. Too often the Court has to appoint people to take care of minors (children under the age of 18), people with disabilities and/or elderly people.

When I represented the State of Missouri, I did permanency planning for children.  That meant that I worked with the social workers to help them ensure that children had a safe place to live with people to guide them to adulthood.  These can be very fun cases as it marks an end of uncertainty for children.  Often they still visit, when appropriate, their parents or other family members.  We wanted to celebrate these cases.  The children were so happy. 

On the other hand, I have represented people asking for guardianship and/or conservatorship for their parents, siblings, friends and children.  These are hard cases.  It is one thing to know that your loved-one must wear diapers but it is another thing to have to say those words in open court.  My clients are likely in tears at this point (me too!).  Several mornings I have sat with clients in the courtroom and they begged me to ensure that I would help them plan so that all of the documents were in place so that no one would have to take them to court and air their private health information in open court.  Yes, I was there when people with mental health issues explained to the Judge and courtroom how the TV was watching them.  It is heart breaking. 

Often the state has accounting requirements for conservators as they are required to account for every expenditure that they make on behalf of the person being protected.  You don’t have to look far to see one of these cases that has gone wrong.  Even the Court appointed Public Administrators’ offices have fallen prey to thieves that are willing to take advantage of anyone who comes their way.  This is not to say that there are not honest people everywhere doing a great job but it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel.  Even family members can come to fisticuffs over money or property held by the person needing protection.

There are also issues with guardians placing restrictions on visits by other family members or placement in far-way places.  Will your court appointed guardian ensure that your medical choices are followed. Or will they take you for the religious services that you want?  Will you be in the best place for you to live? 

So how do you avoid these problems?  You need to prepare for your possible disability.  Failing to plan is to be at the court’s mercy.  Do you think that the judge knows more about you and your family and want is best for you all more than you do?  We offer Free Workshops to help you make good choices.  We also have Missouri Free Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Issues to give anyone who requests one for Free!  

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